Monday, February 28, 2011

The Facebook Effect

To sum up the following story, I never dreamed it would be a real-world, in-person interaction that would get me defriended online. Oh what a brave new world we weave.

Back in '06 I dated a guy for like 2 months. It wasn't a big deal, I mean, we really liked each other but I was moving. We went to Darien Lake for a day, made root beer floats, played video games, cooked dinners, watched marathons of Sports Night (my favorite) and Aqua Teen Hunger Force (his favorite), made our own matching t-shirts referencing inside jokes... basically all the things you do when you know you don't have much time. We even made each other sappy mixtapes with songs about our ill-timed romance. Of course, in an extraordinarily stupid move, we never *officially* broke up before I moved to New York. Many way-too-long phone calls ensued, but neither of us really wanted to do long distance. I had been down that road several times, and it was a miserable one. If this was a romantic comedy, he would surprise me by showing up at my door. But instead we had the inevitable dramatic night where I cried on the phone as we called the whole thing off. Ah, the pains of love.

Of course, a week later he changed his MySpace profile song (remember those?) from Nickel Creek's "This Side" to... wait for it... "A Little Less 16 Candles, A Little More Touch Me" by Fall Out Boy, and started sleeping with one of the students he was a TA for. But whatever. Bygones.

That was about it. I mean, we were friends on Facebook, and he sporadically initiated IM conversations a few times so we could catch up. He got married a little while ago (not to his student), and I left a congrats message on his Facebook wall. There hasn't been any animosity, I thought it was a friendly breakup.

I had forgotten that he is in one of the Ph.D. programs I applied to, in his final year. There really aren't that many to choose from, this was one of the best, and we have similar research interests, so it wasn't surprising. I was invited by the school to come to an open house which included a panel discussion Thursday night -- he was listed as a panelist. I checked his Facebook page, and indeed, it looked like he was the person on the docket. I was kind of looking forward to it, I mean, it's been years, and I thought it would be nice to see a familiar face, even if he would have graduated by the time I got there. This picture of me shrugging illustrates my attitude about the situation (sorry for the shadow of my hand, this is not a high-tech operation):

When the panel discussion ended, I went to talk to him, and awkwardness ensued. He was standing with his wife, and he said, "hello nice to see you again," as if we had met each other just once through a mutual friend. It was clear to me his wife had no idea we had dated or even knew each other, which was fine with me, it was not really newsworthy. I tried carrying on a conversation but it was almost physically painful, I was getting nothing in return. I ended up awkwardly walking away to eat cookies. Something like this:

As fate would have it, the school assigned us to the same dinner table the next night. Presumably they thought we might have something in common. Little did they know how much. It was awkward again, all he said was an awkward "hey"... so I busied myself talking to others. As he was rounding the table with goodbyes, he said, once again, "nice to see you again." And that was it. I thought it was all very bizarre and uncomfortable, to be honest. I left wishing I hadn't seen him at all, but knowing I made a valiant effort toward normalcy.

But then, the most awkward thing of all happened. I went to check his Facebook page the next day, with thoughts of maybe just leaving a 'nice to see you again, great job on the panel,' type of comment, just to try to resolve the awkwardness (I hate awkwardness, it seriously keeps me up at night, when it happens I HAVE to resolve it)... and get this. He was no longer on my list of friends. I searched for his profile, and there was the dreaded button:


Add as friend?! What the hell? When did this motherf*cker DEFRIEND me? We were Facebook friends the day before I came to the school. So he went home from the panel discussion and immediately defriended me? Or after dinner? I mean was that absolutely necessary? It's not like I really am jonesing to be "friends" with this person on Facebook, we have our own separate lives, we may never see each other again (here's hoping we don't, after that awkwardness). But he didn't defriend me after we broke up, and he did defriend me now. There was something that felt just really... aggressive... in that, and I couldn't figure out why it was bothering me so much.

Then it dawned on me -- it's the REVERSE of what I thought would ever happen. I picture myself really irritating people online, warranting a severing of the online relationship, but maybe I would see them again in person and they wouldn't mind me. I think I'm more likeable -- or at least more neutral and non-bothersome -- in person than I probably am online. I'm really a rather quiet person, I try not to irritate anyone too much and just to make things as non-confrontational and non-awkward as possible. I couldn't believe that an in-person interaction with me that lasted about 5 minutes could make a person go directly home and intentionally erase every trace of me from their life by deleting the last remaining online record of association with my existence. It hurt my feelings because it seemed like an affront to my actual being rather than the shadow of myself that I had curated online.

To this moment, I still don't understand why he did it. I'm trying not to dwell on it, exes are exes, Facebook is stupid, it really has no impact on my day-to-day life whatsoever. But I have to say, I feel like I've been broken up with all over again. And after all of this, there is only one person I can possibly think of to blame for this tumult. Only one person who can possibly be held responsible for this awkward, unsettling unfolding of events. Not two people. Not even three people. Just one. And it's so obvious that I bet you can guess who the culprit is. Okay, I'll say it. Mark Zuckerberg. F*cking douchebag.

"Look at it out here, it's all falling apart. I'm erasing you and I'm happy! By morning, you'll be gone." (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)


Anonymous said...

So sad, yet so true. Thanks for the story (and for the illustrations -- love the flash from the past!)

Erik said...

LOL hard at "(you are a failure)"

He was afraid of a drive-by wallcrapping.

This caused me to shut down my wall years ago, and after a brief re-opening for birthday wishes this year, quickly caused me to shut it down again. And though I've never gone to the extent of defriending an ex, one must always be wary of the wallcrapping ex.

Now you were far from doing this, so you are not being implicated here, but here's how it usually goes:

1) Guy is friends w/ ex on FB.

2) Ex learns guy has moved on.

3) Guy's ex posts misleading comment that she knows will incite discussion between guy and his current gf like "So who is this (insert name of ex) that is writing stuff like that on your wall?"

4) Guy is left with 2 choices: shut down wall, or the more extreme, defriend. For the especially paranoid, or depending on the severity of the wallcrap, a block may ensue.

While what you intended to write doesn't constitute a wallcrap in my court's opinion, the awkwardness of your meeting up may have caused a preemptive strike.

That evening, this convo took place between he and his wife:

WIFE: Hey, so who was that Lisa girl?
GUY: (bertstare)
WIFE: You know, the one you were weird with tonight?
GUY: ....
WIFE: What? Did you two date or something?
GUY: .........
WIFE: Oh, so you want to get back together with her or something?
GUY: ..............
WIFE: Is she on your facebook?
GUY: NO! (runs to other room and defriends)

If you think I'm nuts about this, don't even get me started on when I find out someone has been BCC'd on something sent to me...

Sarah B. said...

Absolutely love the illustrations...they remind me so much of Thanksgiving. :)

Lisa said...

Erik, you're probably right. I hadn't really thought of it that way, but that's probably what happened. (Someone being BCC'd is a pet peeve of mine too.)

Sarah and Dan, glad you guys love the illustrations. I'll keep them coming. :)

erinire said...

I like that in your cartoons you have really curly hair.

Unknown said...

Aww thank you so much for the story (im a 15 yo male btw) i loved it, and im sorry about hos it ended, but i feel as it the wife felt that you were an ex as you didnt talk or comunicate as old mates over the diner table. She probably got a bit jelous of you and ordered him to delete you from facebook. Also thank you so much for introducing me to the website this should hopefully help me find some tipics to discus on the inline radio i present on. This is a great one i might use, your story has been most educational, and seein your pic I can see why she was jelous.. Hehe women seem to over blond/blue eyes i dont know why (i say this from observations not anything to do withfriends or generations, i havnt a a g yet waiting till after school and i want it to be special)